Exchange programs - even the short one-week ones - can often be intense with work but in general they are also a lot of fun, and you will always learn something new: if not about the subject, then about yourself.
Did you ever ask yourself why you should go on an international exchange? There is travel involved, perhaps you’ll be gone from your loved ones, and you might have to share a room with several people you don’t know that well. It all sounds quite uncomfortable, but we dare you: Think again! Exchange programs - even the short one-week ones - can often be intense with work but in general they are also a lot of fun, and you will always learn something new: if not about the subject, then about yourself. Below you can read about our experience spending a week in Brussels on the SUHET project.
SUHET stands for Sustainable High-End Tourism and is an Erasmus+ program aimed to create a new MOOC (massive open online course) on the subject. In the last week of November, we got on a plane and flew from Rovaniemi via Helsinki to Brussels - also known as "the capital of Europe". Glad about the late 10 o'clock start on Monday morning after a late flight on Sunday night, we got into the classroom with just enough time to grab a cup of hot, steaming coffee before the first lecture commenced. In the classroom we also met the rest of the group, with students and teachers from Belgium, Bulgaria, Slovenia, and Spain. The organizations involved are Fundació Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, UNIVERZA V MARIBORU, ERASMUSHOGESCHOOL BRUSSEL, EUROPEAN CENTER FOR QUALITY FOOD and Lapland UAS.
After a day packed with information and lectures, we finished just after 5 PM, in a room filled with sleepy faces. Yet, this did not stop the students from making the most of their travels as about half of the group met after dinner to go ice skating at the local Christmas Market.
The work continued bright and early on Tuesday morning, when we hopped on a bus which took us to a town called Tongeren in Western Belgium. We visited the Eburon Hotel, which has a fascinating history. The hotel used to be a convent, then a hospital and now it’s turned into a 4-star hotel. Everybody was able to feel the history and the special atmosphere the hotel had.
Free time in Tongeren included having lunch (the famous Belgian fries) and walking around the beautiful town. After that we headed to our next destination which was Ordingen Castle just half an hour from Tongeren. Ordingen Castle is a beautiful 5-star hotel, which actually looks like a castle from the outside. We found inside a few restaurants, a wellness section, comfortable conference rooms, and outside a beautiful park that we got to see.
Our last destination of the day was the Clos d’Opleeuw vineyard. The owner took us to the vineyards to see where the grapes actually grow, and we were able to ask him questions about his job and the way of life as a winegrower. At the end of our visit, we of course got to taste the white wine.
Wednesday morning started with a couple of lectures held by the teachers from our partner universities as well as Teija from Lapland UAS. We heard about management of high-end customer experiences and marketing in sustainable high-end tourism. After spending the morning on campus, we got free time for the rest of the day. Some students went to see the city centre, Brussels Christmas market, Royal Palace of Brussels, Manneken Pis, Grand-Place and warmed up at a student café with a cup of hot coffee. Another student group opted to get on a train to discover the nearby city of Bruges.
On Thursday morning we hopped on a train to Antwerp. In the city of diamonds, we got to visit the 5-star Botanic Sanctuary Hotel Antwerp. We were given a tour around the hotel, dining and conference rooms and one of the most luxurious suites of the hotel. Botanic Sanctuary Antwerp had a fascinating story of combining the old and new – as the pathway in the front yard of the hotel connects the old and new parts of the city of Antwerp. After a little bit of touring around Antwerp we got the train back to Brussels. Back on campus we held the final evaluation session of the week.
Once finished, we got to celebrate a job well done. One of the benefits of an international exchange is that we got to taste different drinks which everyone had brought from their own country: Belgian beer, Spanish and Slovenian wine and Finnish Salmiakkikossu. It was a great ending to the week we had spent together. (Text continues after the picture)
So, after one week in Brussels – what have we learned?
First, beyond the course, when exploring the city, we realized that Belgium – while a small country – has a rich, complex, and diverse culture and as such may truly deserve its title of "European Capital" even beyond the European Parliament.
Second, culture shock is something you can experience any time you travel. Sometimes the more similar the culture is to your own, the greater the culture shock since you presume to know what to expect. Yet, at times we struggled with simple tasks like finding a café or restaurant as our experience did not match our current reality. (Text continues after the picture)
Finally, when spending an intensive week on an international exchange, you inevitably make friends with the people around you. Nationality, age, background… they really don’t matter as you work together towards a common goal. And that is really what these international exchanges are about.
Written by tourism students Riikka Iivari and Liisa Siippainen (Degree Programme in Tourism)
Photos by Riikka Iivari
Living in Ounasvaara area provides many advantages to students.
It's not uncommon for Kuntotie student inhabitants to hear negative remarks about their location, such as "Oh, Kuntotie, it's so far to commute" or "Aw, Kuntotie is the bad area, too far from everywhere." Unavoidably, the word "far" comes up while talking about it. Kuntotie apartments, where it takes 20 minutes to bike to the university, cannot be described as handy in comparison to other apartments, particularly those in campus regions. Not to mention, it takes around half an hour to ride the bus to school in the winter. However, is living in Kuntotie a bad idea? No, the Kuntotie people benefit in many ways from their "remote" location.
Where is the Kuntotie? It is the Ounasvaara's front area, and in a twist, the Ounasvaara may be considered as the backyard of the Kuntotie people, who can take the 10-minute shortcut they are familiar with to have an evening BBQ at Laavu and a breakfast at the observation tower with a breathtaking sunrise. They can also harvest berries and mushrooms in the Ounasvaara in the summer and the early fall.
There are other activities available here. The neighborhood is a great place to try bowling, especially on Wednesdays when it's free for those with Wellnesspass. In addition to the adorable gym at Das 9, students can find the swimming pool, the climbing wall, skiing trails, and a skating rink in the neighborhood.
From Kuntotie, it is simple to get to the beach next to the Candle Bridge, where swimming is available all year long (in winter there is an ice swimming hole). Let's use the shortcut once more as well: One of the must-do activities in Finland is watching an ice hockey game, which is only 5 minutes away.
The Ounasrinne library, located about a kilometer east of Kuntotie, is another choice for individuals seeking a peaceful place to study besides campuses. Finally, the Kuntotie apartments are also close to the hospital; it takes 5 minutes to walk to the emergency room. We hope you never need it, but just in case.
Although Kuntotie is not the best area to catch morning lessons, it is a great place to live if you want to blend busy study with a vibrant after-school life.
- Lei Zhou -
On a foggy and rainy afternoon, the tutors guide the exchange students to the reindeer farm. The reindeer farm is a around 15 minutes drive distance from Lapland UAS, close to Santa Claus Village. The weather is not cold today, it just snowed a few days ago, and some roads are still covered with snow and ice.
The exchange students are all looking forward to going to the reindeer farm, and they are all very excited. After we arrived at the reindeer farm, the tour guide told us what to watch out for. We can feed them and touch their mouths but be careful not to touch their antlers.
A basket of reindeer’s favorite food has been prepared on the ground for us to feed them, and while we are feeding the food, one reindeer even wanted to cross the fence to eat.
After that, the tour guide took us to a room with a bonfire for us to rest, which was already heated very warmly. The guide told us that there are more than 200 000 reindeer in the whole of Lapland, all of them have owners. Each reindeer will be marked so that the owners can follow their tracks, because occasionally the reindeer will run out of the owner’ s territory and the owner needs to find them back.
The male reindeer in this farm are work reindeer, female reindeer could not be used as work reindeer because they are smaller than male reindeer and the other reason is they will get pregnant in winter. The physical limit of the reindeer is minus 70 degrees, so that is why they are active in winter but very lazy in summer.
Anyway, we learned a lot when we visited the reindeer farm. Then we went to the restaurant for dinner. The food was very delicious, which was reindeer meat with mashed potatoes.When we came back, the sky was already dark and started to rain lightly, and today’s trip ended very successfully. Everyone had a great time!
The TURID Network was founded in 1998, and it is funded by Nordplus Higher Education Programme. Over the years, the network has included 11 partner HEIs and over 400 student participants. This year, the Degree Programme in Tourism organized a TURID intensive week in Levi, Kittilä under the theme “Greener Business Practices as Competitive Advantage for Micro and Small Tourism Companies in Nordic-Baltic Region”.
All in all, 22 students and 6 teachers from 6 universities (of applied sciences) in Finland, Sweden, Estonia and Latvia spent an inspiring week in Levi, learning about sustainability communication and developing it with three local companies. Here is what one of the student groups wrote about their experiences.
Arctic Circle… we finally meet!
Living in the Arctic Circle for a few days, especially if it is our first trip there, is an unforgettable experience. Getting up in the morning and being able to go for a stroll in the woods just outside the door, hunting for Northern Lights, and climbing gorgeous mountains surrounded by rivers and lakes… we will never forget that.
We knew we'd made the correct decision the instant we stepped foot in polar territory. We are more than 20 people from various countries in this course, and our major job is to get to know different organizations and work on the design of a strategy to promote sustainability communication.
When the opportunity knocks
During our time in Levi, we had a lot of firsts. Some of us saw reindeer for the first time and some had very interesting and new food experiences like tar butter on their taste buds for the first time. We got to experience a lot of things we will not probably experience in the future, like cocooning in the Lappish nature and drinking coffee made by perhaps the only campfire barista in the world.
All the visits were memorable in their own way, like visiting Elves village with their very uniquely designed cottages and very homely decorated houses. The Seitakivi really stuck, because we doubt there isn’t anything like it in the world.
All of the places visited, whether it was for educational purposes or going to lunch, had their own personal yet luxurious decoration, and it was truly an experience in itself. It was a real joy to work with the commissioners towards better sustainability communication in these conditions.
Taking up the challenge
During our 1-week study at Levi, we had assignments to learn about the sustainability of Levi's local businesses, in addition to experiencing new things. Furthermore, we are responsible for evaluating and providing feedback on LeviDay's social marketing strategy, as well as providing personal opinions and suggestions to help them improve their website, Facebook, and Instagram in terms of both images and content.
The first and most difficult challenge for us was to enjoy the Levi trip while also paying attention to the assignment. Because the tours at Levi and LeviDay's cottage were so enjoyable and relaxed, we were engrossed in the experience and found it difficult to concentrate on our studies.
The second challenge concerned the commissioner interview. Because the majority of the team members are international students and the LeviDay commissioner does not speak English, our conversation took a long time because we had to translate and understand each other. Fortunately, the group included two Finnish friends, Johanna and Aleksis, who assisted in translating the questions and answers.
Group meetings and idea generation went very well. However, sometimes team members don't really understand each other, which creates a tense atmosphere, but we all know that this is completely normal when working in groups, and we all know how to deal with the problem so that the group meeting runs smoothly and peacefully.
Our final but most important task is to prepare for the final presentation. All members were nervous and worried about the presentation, and we ran out of time during the presentation, so we didn't get to express all of the ideas that the group had prepared. However, this is also a lesson in how to say enough but concisely in future presentations.
And the final day... Nobody wanted to leave
The TURID experience is one-of-a-kind, and we recommend all of you to participate because it allows you to get to know yourself better, break down boundaries, meet individuals who share your same interests, and share with people from different countries across the world as if you were family.
It enables you to travel, discover, and grow personally and professionally, as well as experience the globe and step out of your comfort zone, which is when you truly feel alive.
- Diana Ayala, Johanna Ylioja, Trinh Dung (Jullie) -
Kuksajaiset is a long history event where new students compete in groups against other groups in their study field. Since the Covid-19 event has been suspended for two years, students union Rotko offered an opportunity to continuing students to participate in the event together. This year's theme was time machine, and student tutors guided their group through the race. The event was held on 23rd September, with freshmen taking part in a day race from 12am to 5pm. Lapland UAS also prepared two coaches for new students from Kemi and Tornio campus to Rovaniemi. Continuing students' evening race was from 6pm to 9pm, with an after party started at 10pm at Half Moon Night Club.
On a sunny and cool Friday in Autumn, exchange students from Kemi and Rovaniemi formed a team Erasmus to participate Kuksajaiset day race and compete with other teams. The race was held around the Kemijoki river. There were 15 checkpoints in total. Each checkpoint had a task and we needed to try our best to gain high scores. The tasks were, for example, making choreography by using the song ROTKO and guessing songs. Teamwork is the most important at every checkpoint as we have to cooperate with teammates to finish the task. Each checkpoint is scored based on the group’s game completion, team spirit, and 'bribes', and the top three scoring teams are rewarded.
Even though Rovaniemi and Kemi exchange students had not met before, we guided them as student tutors to find the checkpoints, which brought us to get to know and get along with each other. We also took some photos of exchange students when they visited checkpoints participating in the games. No matter if we win or lose, we had a wonderful day and everyone had a valuable memory in their life.
Here are the highlights of exchange students participating in the games.
Exchange students and student tutors went to Ranua Zoo to see the polar bear.
On the 23rd of August, Lapland UAS exchange students and student tutors went to the Ranua zoo for the last orientation day.
We started the day with a 1-hour bus trip but since we had cheerful chatting, the time passed very quickly and we did not feel that long. After we got to Ranua, we met exchange students and student tutors from Kemi-Tornio as well. (story continues after the picture)
The day was full of walking and learning about different animal species such as reindeer, owls, musk ox, moose and bears. The weather was sunny and a bit chilly. Some animals like brown bears and the Pallas’s cat were having a sunbath. However, many animals were either hiding or sleeping. It was a pity that we did not see any polar bears, but everyone is actively looking for the resting animals. There was a polar bear’ statue and you could be able to take pictures with it. You could also check what kind of bird you are based on your hands' length on the board. (Story continues after the picture)
There is also a coffee shop, some restaurants and souvenir shops. Quite many choices of food are provided in restaurants such as buffet lunch and pizzas. They were delicious. There were over 50 students participated and a few people also got there by their own car. Everyone enjoyed spending their time there. We spent around 3 hours sightseeing and travelled back to the Rovaniemi campus. After all everyone got back safe and no one was left behind. Most of them were satisfied with the trip, and they would like to recommend it to future students to visit here.
Pictures: Beibei Xiang
During your studies at Lapin AMK, you have a great opportunity to go abroad for exchange studies. It can be for the period of one semester or for the whole year.
Going on exchange is a perfect opportunity to make some of your dreams come true! You can choose from many educational institutions all over the world, where you would like to go. The opportunities can be checked here: Link to Solemove.
Before applying for the exchange, some planning must be done. Make sure that all the stages are settled before the actual application period starts – the dates together with the necessary steps before, during and after application period are mentioned here, but do not hesitate to ask for help if something seems unclear for you.
For me one of the important parts during preparation was to make sure that my future studies abroad are accepted to my current degree at home University; two courses were not covered by the exchange program, but we went through it with study counselor and the problem was solved.
There are different types of exchange programs (depends on the chosen University) with a possibility to apply for the grant. However, the grant does not cover all expenses, thus make sure that you have enough sufficient funds to support you. The description of the programs can be found under the “Studying Abroad” section. Often the partner Universities has the necessary info (for example accommodation prices) at their website – browse it. Take a close look at language requirements, in my case we had one university in Spain, where 2 courses were held in Spanish, thus it required at least basic knowledge of Spanish language.
Before picking the University, check its location, what does it offer apart from your main studies and other opportunities such as extra courses/ sport events/ possibilities for leisure/ traveling around. When I was choosing my destination, the crucial point for me was the language. I wanted to go to the country, where English is the native language. It was quite a challenge, as of course teachers in my university speaking very good English, but no one speaks as good as native speakers. It ended up being a great idea for me, as language skills increased rapidly.
During my exchange period I was a part of the volleyball team at university, traveled around, made good friends and found a practical training place for myself, as you can see the time was not wasted 😊
Apart from language skills, exchange provides you with the chance to dive into atmosphere and culture of a chosen country. You can go to the place, which is completely opposite from your home country and/or the country where you are studying. Maybe, it is the country, where you always wanted to travel!
Hence, do not miss a great chance to expand your horizon, meet different people and open new possibilities for yourself! 🎓
Exchange students of Lapland UAS visited the Ranua Zoo. The most popular animal was -of course- the polar bear.
On a sunny Thursday, our exchange students from the Rovaniemi and Kemi campuses visited Ranua Zoo together with Lapland UAS International Services and three student tutors.
The bus left in the morning from the Kemi campus, stopped by Rovaniemi campus to pick up more students and headed to Ranua. The bus ride from Kemi to Ranua via Rovaniemi took a couple hours. On the way the bus was filled with lots of joyful giggling and talking.
The day in the zoo included snacks by the fire, lunch in the restaurant, souvenir shopping, enjoying the sunshine and most importantly – getting to see the animals of the zoo. Typical Finnish animals such as reindeer, moose, lynx, owls, bears were seen. Also, the most popular attraction of the zoo, polar bear!
After the sunny and warm afternoon in the zoo, the bus took the happy travelers back to the campus towns. The trip was a success and everyone loved the time spent together.
Here some pictures from our trip:
Moving abroad may be an exciting and thrilling event at the same time. There are several things which are better to be done before coming to the country.
Things to do before arrival
First of all, make sure that you are meeting the entry requirements – as a future student from the EU you do not need as visa, however if you are coming outside of the EU, most likely you need a student visa. It is better to apply in advance, as the process might take up to a few months.
Find an apartment – there are options to choose. Location, price, the type of the apartment – all these points are to be considered before making your choice. What happened to me is that after the 1st year of my studies I’ve made some good friends and we started to rent an apartment in the city together after the first summer. Once the apartment is chosen, check what will be in the apartment once you will arrive there. Some of the apartments do not have furniture, dishes, blankets/pillows, thus you will need to take care of it yourself.
Check the acceptance email carefully – it may contain some important information, for example about the enrolment for the upcoming semester, information of the future studies and other useful tips and contacts regarding your studies.
In Finland Kela is taking care of student’s health care fees.
Familiarize yourself with this system, what does it offer and what needs to be done in order to register there. There is a healthcare unit for students too and you’ll be introduced to it soon after the beginning of the studies, but small research will always benefit you.
Once the documental side of the matter is done, check the area, where you will be living – nearby shops, hospital, cafeterias… It is also good to know the transport system as at least you’ll have to get to your accommodation from your arrival point and then get the basic supplies.
It may be useful to go through social media of the University – there are may be other future students looking for their future classmates or other students/tutors offering help to the newcomers. And please check the University pages, especially the Guide for new students
. There is valuable information for new students.
Once you arrived
If you are arriving outside of the EU it especially makes sense to purchase a Finnish SIM-card.
All foreigners, who are intending to reside in Finland have to register in Finnish Population Information System. They have the sufficient information on their website or you can call them and ask necessary questions.
Bicycle is a very popular transport in Finland and Rovaniemi is easy to explore by cycling around. I would recommend to get the bike once you have the chance. You can buy it from the 2nd hand store, other students or get a brand-new from the shop.
Rovaniemi is a very popular tourist destination for the winter season. There are many companies involved in this business and they are looking for the seasonal workers every season – it might be a good chance to try yourself in Finnish working environment, get some experience and to meet new people!
Despite all abovementioned points do not let me to overwhelm you with that load of info! Go through all the processes step by step and feel free to ask for help. If you are worried about your language skills – still do not hesitate to talk to people. Based on my own experience, the more you push yourself, the better you get. There are no stupid questions and it is normal to take your time while searching for the correct word. Practice makes perfect!
You have chosen the wonderful place to study and I wish you a good luck 😊
- Kseniia, IB-student -
On the 22nd of March 2022, Lapland UAS incoming team organized a visit to reindeer farm Raitola for exchange students.
The bus to the reindeer farm departed from the campus half-past three, and the drive to the reindeer farm took approximately 20 minutes. The weather for this trip was awesome – the sun was shining, and the temperature was a bit on the plus side.
Upon arrival at Raitola, exchange students got to know safety instructions for the reindeer ride, and after these instructions, they went on a reindeer ride in pairs – sleds were big enough for two. Organizers, Maria and Riikka, and international tutors, Viivi and Anastassia, got a chance to participate in this activity! (text continues after the pictures)
After the reindeer ride, the reindeer herder of Raitola offered warm juice and buns, and he talked more about the reindeer and about the reindeer herding. Reindeer info raised several questions within the exchange students, and he was able to answer for almost all of those, except one that many people ask – how does Santa make reindeer fly. When all questions were answered, the employee gave everyone a reindeer driver’s license, and the dinner was served. As a dinner, there was sautéed reindeer, which was delicious, and the choice of serving did not cause any surprise, since everyone had learned that the reindeer that end up in the flesh are not the same ones they had just met.
After the dinner, everyone was full and happy, and the bus back to the campus came.